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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

95 Tips for Handling Business Criticism Online & Offline

Written By: Carol Roth | 10 Comments

With the omnipresence of social media, now more than ever, business owners and entrepreneurs have to deal with an influx of criticism, complaints and negative feedback in business. And if the criticism is not handled properly, the damage to your business or brand can be devastating. So, the CarolRoth.com contributor network of entrepreneurs and experts have graciously provided their best tips for handling criticism in business. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar insights, but I kept the concepts separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. Healthy Complaint Handling

First, thank the contributor for their time and interest. Let them know what you'll do with the information they gave you and tell them when you'll be back in touch. Work hard inside your business to resolve the issue. If the comment points to a systemic issue, one that's hard and expensive to overcome, all the better. Fix the problem or develop a work-around. Finally, get back in touch with the contributor and tell them what happened. Let them take some of the credit for the fix.
Thanks to: Mike Wittenstein of Storyminers.

2. Sticks & Stones!

Your Mother was always right! Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you. No one can go through life without some criticism...it is how you respond that matters...and in business it matters BIG TIME. Criticism is always an opportunity to prove yourself better. Rise to the occasion...you can't give me a bar I can't climb. Don't allow words to bring you down - in fact, they can only make you stronger!
Thanks to: Vicki Donlan of VickiDonlan.

3. Be a Consistent Professional!

My ONE best tip for "Handling Criticism/Negative Comments Online or Off in Business" is accept the fact that if you are in the public eye that you will be the target of negative comments and criticism. Understand that even if you did everything perfect, this would still be the case because it connects with the very nature of many people and remember that you cannot please everyone. Don't allow your heart to reflect the attitudes of your critics and always be a consistent and loving professional.
Thanks to: Kevin Benton of Kevin Benton Ministries.

4. Take a Step Back!

When you feel criticized or attacked, take one giant step backwards and let it land on the floor, not on you! If you're able to do this, you will not take it in or on. In this way, you maintain your perspective and can interact in an appropriate way.
Thanks to: Rosanne Dausilio PhD of Human Technologies Global Inc.

5. Keeping My Mind Open!

I try to make criticism work for me. Insight from another point of view allows me to re-evaluate and make adjustments for the better- whether it prompts a change in my website or change in my perspective.
Thanks to: Sharon Rosen of ShivaConnect.com.

6. Handling Criticism: 4 Key Tips

1) Remember - Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, even if it seriously conflicts with yours. Never get defensive.
2) Respond in a way that rises above with grace, but addresses the key complaint effectively.
3) If you continually receive an overabundance of negative feedback, re-evaluate what you’re putting out in the world. It’s not a random coincidence.
4) Manage your emotions and choose your words with care - the energy you put out through your communications is very potent.
Thanks to: Kathy Caprino of Ellia Communications.

7. Customer Complaints Gone Right

Offer an unconditional guarantee and if they call you directly, you will personally resolve any and all of their concerns. There is almost nowhere for the customer to go other than to call and then you get the opportunity to rebuild the trust. Once on a call or in-person visit, you have the chance to diffuse the situation and offer the chance to fix the problem. The secret is the personal contact and unconditional guarantee. You will make it right no matter what!!!
Thanks to: Doug Hcker of 2 Excel Now, LLC.

8. Right Back at Ya'

Criticism takes many forms. Being able to demonstrate that you have already addressed the issue stops it cold. Recently, a young customer posted a negative blog about us and one of our D-I-Y kits. I was able to respond by providing online links to a photo installation, the diagrams, and remind him that I had already given other information to his father AND his mother. I quickly had others on the blog praising our customer service and tech support, thereby turning a negative into a big positive.
Thanks to: Steve Watson of Watson's Streetworks.

9. Well?

If you're feeling criticized, ask yourself if it's your 'stuff' or the other person's. Sometimes, you're feeling defensive; sometimes, the other is projecting. Next, breathe deeply and ask yourself what truth there is in it. If there's no truth to it, let it go. If there is, fix it. It may take a while. Remember, you can't do anything productive if you're mad or defensive. Don't make it worse by reacting immediately.
Thanks to: Lunell Haught of Haught Strategies.

10. Release Before Responding!

Before reacting, release and detach from the criticism- if face to face, practice your acting skills, do not respond and excuse yourself for a quick bathroom break. You can even say before responding, "I must take a quick bathroom break." Close the door and conduct a "silent scream" with full body tension- punch the ceiling, release 3 times and then take 3 deep relaxation breaths. If the critique is virtual, give yourself time before sending. Return ready to roll with it and a great response!
Thanks to: Eileen Lichtenstein of Balance & Power, Inc.

11. Handling with Tact

Customers do not complain unless something usually goes wrong. It could be a wrong item, excessive wait, or even a rude employee. Looking from the customer point of view, you would want to try to smooth over their "ruffled feathers." It could be as simple as an apology. It is important that management knows the problem, so that they can try to stop it from reoccurring to any customer. If something is listed negatively online, list what was done to fix it.
Thanks to: Carol Coots of Medical Consulting From A to Z, LLC.

12. Take a Step Back

Have you ever noticed that when a friend or co-worker tells you about their problem, you have all the answers? But when the problem or criticism is yours, it is difficult to keep the emotional responses at bay. So, when you receive criticism, take a step back and look at it as if it was directed at someone else. Then, you can evaluate the criticism from a logical view instead of an emotional, defensive one. If there is merit, you will be more likely to see it; if not, the frustration is lessened.
Thanks to: Janet Christy of Leverage & Development, LLC.

13. Take a Step Back and Think

When someone criticizes you, it's human nature to immediately react. Instead of giving into your emotions, take a step back and think about the criticism. If the comment has validity, put your ego aside and respond accordingly. If you feel the criticism is completely out of left field (you believe the person is being overly critical- feedback from everyone else has been the exact opposite, etc.), respond respectfully, but stay confident, assert your original position and explain your thinking.
Thanks to: Tony Popowski of Grass Roots Marketing, Inc.

14. Meaningful Thanks

Thank the person for taking the time and trouble to let you know where there is a weakness or failure in your business dealings. Even if the advice is useless, someone took time to register a complaint; you take the time to be grateful that they contacted you, instead of badmouthing you behind your back. This worked especially well with someone who spent more time berating our choice of cover for a poetry book than reviewing its context. They were nonplussed by our thanks. Niceness startles.
Thanks to: Francine L. Trevens of TnT Classic Books.

15. It Will Only Hurt for a Moment

All of us have had to face that moment. We are on top of the world one second, and then a well-aimed sentence brings our world crashing down. You have become the victim of a verbal hand grenade!

It is inevitable that you will be barraged with negative comments and criticisms throughout the average day. The question is how do you cope with them?

Remember that the other person made their statement for a reason. The tone may be harsh, but something drove them. Do not react; analyze!
Thanks to: Jerry Dollar of Jerry V. Dollar, Author, Columnist.

16. Thank Them

When it comes to criticism, in particular with social media, you must handle it with grace, no matter how charged it may make you. The world is watching & will know if you fail to respond, or respond with ego.

Thank your critic for providing you valuable insight. Use it to improve your product, services, and even turn a critic into a brand evangelist by handling the remark with grace, optimism and appreciation.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning" Bill Gates
Thanks to: Sue Koch of Soaring Solutions, LLC.

17. Keep a List of Great Feedback

Constructive criticism is helpful; mean-spirited criticism just plain hurts. Keep a list of positive comments you've received -- notes, emails, Tweets, even Facebook "likes" -- so you can remind yourself that lots of people love what you're doing.
Thanks to: Paula Pant of AffordAnything.org.

18. Turn Lemons into Custom-ADE!

Graciously hear and acknowledge the negative view or comment. Next, have an objective, unassuming mind review your business or product for the flaw and THIRD, be determined to take flaw(s) found and make it an opportunity to change and present your service or product better than ever. Take the negative and show your customers that you heard them, LOUD and CLEAR!!! Make it right and do it better.
Thanks to: Sherell Edwards of AGC Transport & Serv LLC.

19. Surprise Them!

Research from AdAge earlier this year found 42% of people connect with brands on Facebook because they want better customer service. Those of us that are immersed in social media might expect some response when we complain about brands, but most consumers are surprised when they actually hear from a brand on these social networks. Surprise them by being publicly responsive to their posts. Use Google Alerts & searches on 48ers.com to react quickly to people talking (or complaining) about you.
Thanks to: Sandra Rand of ShareAndTell Pro.

20. Symptom of a Larger Issue?

It is hard to not take criticism personally and not feel the need to defend yourself. Always try to look at criticism from the perspective of the person giving it. What was their experience? Is the criticism really the issue or is it a symptom of a something larger. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can learn more about what you need to work on in your business and maybe identify a larger issue with your client and work to resolve it. Every criticism is an opportunity to improve and learn.
Thanks to: Lauren MacEwen of SM Cubed.

21. Critiques Motivate Me!

When my heart & mind are centered on achieving something, criticism propels me to make it happen. My sales strategy:

1. Smile and Agree. The other person will walk away believing they won.
2. Analyze. Can you tweak your plan?
3. Go For It!

Upon seeing my self-published book, a male in a very nasty tone said, "If your book were any good, a publisher would have picked it up." Analyzing & Tweaking; Sourcebooks published Nice Girls DO Get the Sale - an international best-seller!
Thanks to: Elinor Stutz of Smooth Sale, LLC.

22. Risky Business

In business, bumps in the road can occur and smart companies plan for this. Two success strategies we embrace: assemble a pre-determined group of experts that your company would need if a worst case scenario presented itself and next, build key messages that address the situation in a concise, appropriate manner.

Note: experts may include but not be limited to - Lawyer(s), secondary supplier(s), emergency IT, web services, medical /psychological organizations, media relations, et al.
Thanks to: Kelly Isley of Corcoran Associates.

23. Reality or Perception?

Even if you're sure you don't have a problem, your client perceives one - and their perception is your problem. How did they come to that perception? What positive actions can you take to alter that perception? Will that perception actually affect your business relationship with them? Even if you don't alter your core processes themselves, you may be able to change what your client sees of those processes. And ALWAYS thank them sincerely for sharing their thoughts - they want you to SUCCEED!
Thanks to: Jim Newman of CF Geographics LLC.

24. Take Ownership

Mistakes happen and things do go wrong; this is business. The companies that keep our business are the ones who step up to the plate, own the problem, acknowledge the issue and work with us to fix the problem. Notice that I did not say that they EAT IT every single time. What is important is that they realize long term benefit of relationships, have pride in their company and product and stand behind what they sell. Those are the companies we come back to time and time again. This is who we are!
Thanks to: Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc.

25. Learn from Criticism

There are two basic types of criticism. One kind is constructive, the other destructive. While it is often hurtful to hear criticism, we can all learn from it. Constructive criticism offers a better or alternative way or a different solution. Destructive criticism puts down an idea or course of action without offering alternative ideas or solutions. It criticizes to criticize. Learn from construction criticism, even if you disagree with it. Ignore destructive criticism; life is too short.
Thanks to: Robert Papes of Papes Consulting.

26. Criticism? Find the source!

The #1 best way I've found to deal with criticism/negativity is to find the source. Yes, sometimes there are valid reasons for criticism (bad customer service, etc.) but 9/10 of the time, there is an underlying reason that has zero to do with the issue at hand. For example, I had a client that was really negative towards me. It ended up that I reminded him of his father whom he disliked. The best part is that once you expose the source, you can often turn the person into a great evangelist for you - I did!
Thanks to: David Leigh Weber of Learn About Flow.

27. Been Doing it for 40 Years

I was on a construction site. An elderly carpenter was installing a door frame into a wall. The engineer was criticizing the way the carpenter was anchoring it.

The elderly experienced carpenter was defensive & said; "Young man, I've been doing this for 40 years, so do not tell me how to do it." The young engineer replied, "Well for 40 years you’ve been doing it wrong!

The young engineer was right.

I was in my 20's seeing this. It was a great lesson. Criticism is good! Welcome it!
Thanks to: Harris Glasser of Serving The People Press.

28. Responding to Criticism

Be appreciative that they are giving their criticism to you and not blabbing to a hundred other otherwise prospective customers (or worse, posting to blogs, Facebook and elsewhere). Plus, for every suggestion you hear, there are probably a hundred customers who are not telling you. I'm always appreciative of feedback (criticism), presuming that my customers and others, by speaking up, are actually interested in helping me to improve my products, service and business.
Thanks to: Burke Franklin of Jian.

29. Just Kill Them with Kindness!!

To lead a team, you must learn to lead yourself. Ask yourself- are you good at follow up and follow through? Are you late/forget appointments? Do you find yourself procrastinating when you should be producing? These are not habits of a leader or grower. You must be accountable for yourself before you can hold anyone else accountable. Leadership is influence; would you follow you? So, you follow you? You are bigger than any negative comment. Send a "Nice to Meet You" card- Appreciation Marketing!!
Thanks to: Gayle Marie Merrill of Our Marketing Tool.

30. A Learning Opportunity

During my nearly twenty years in the corporate world, I learned that criticism is not hurtful, it's helpful. How are we to grow as human beings if we do not accept criticism gracefully?
Thanks to: Warren Bobrow of Wild River Review.

31. Quick Trick

All people really want is attention & acknowledgment. They - we - want to be right.

I have 2 ways I respond:

1. If they are violent or abusive, I simply walk away (if in person), or do not respond (as in emails).

2. If they have an honestly presented gripe, I say, "Well, you could be right. Let's look into this." I'm not agreeing, I'm just acknowledging them. It takes the wind out of their storm-laden sails, brings them back to reason, and we usually go from there to a good resolution.
Thanks to: Angela Treat Lyon of The Daring Dreamers Showcase.

32. Thank You for Complaining!

Thank someone for complaining? The answer is an emphatic YES! Think about your own experience as a consumer when you have called to complain, just itching for a confrontation! And then, the company service rep completely surprises you by empathizing? Your blood pressure immediately drops back to normal and the “fight” just drains out of you. That business is well on the way to transforming you from foe to friend. And it started by simply thanking you for your complaint!
Thanks to: Bill Loeber of PhotoArt People.

33. It's NOT the Critic Who Counts

As co-founder of a PR and marketing agency, I've dealt with a lot of criticism being a new business owner. I respond to this by continuing to do what works for us. The phrase "you can't please everyone" applies in business too. It's good to listen to constructive criticism, but what works for another company may not work for you. The best tip for entrepreneurs is to ask themselves if worrying about these critics is making them more money? If not, it's irrelevant.
Thanks to: Raevyn Jones of Ideal Publicity.

34. Every Criticism is Like Gold

Helping an author self publish is literally handling his baby – a book he may have dreamt of his entire life. Most clients are happy because we’re really good. But sometimes, I get a frown or heavy sigh.

He must love his book, so if I sense any gloom, I dig into what's on his mind. I assure him that he may hurt my feelings, but it would be much worse if we created something he didn't love.

All criticisms are gold – precious little nuggets of wisdom to mine for better business.
Thanks to: Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing & Publishing.

35. Shift the Criticism

Shift the criticism to an opportunity by saying thank you!

Negative feedback can be a wonderful opportunity. Instead of getting defensive, figure out what you can learn from it and ignore the rest. If you feel attacked, try to come up with something specific and measurable so that you can shift what you are doing. This would then be a learning experience for you and save you time and energy being angry.
Thanks to: Howard Miller of Fulcrum Point.

36. Defang the Criticism Dragon

Karate experts use an opponent’s weight against him. In virtual, cyber or actual reality, the criticism dragon rips. Taking criticism further than it was intended puts you in control of any anti-you momentum and turns it on him. If he says you are ‘loud’, add ‘I am uncouth and unwashed’ too. It breaks the tension, shatters his psychological need for dominance and defangs him. At best, the ludicrousness of the situation invites laughter, at worst, he will disengage. Either way, you win.
Thanks to: Gael McCarte of Corbiere.

37. Feel, Felt, Found

Objection handling involves three steps: 1. I know exactly how you Feel (They don't care until they know you care about them) 2. I have Felt the same way myself (Misery loves company) 3. I have Found the following solution... (Once they know you and trust you, then they are ready to give you credit). This is an age old solution that still works today. So... to review, Feel what they feel (walk in their shoes), Felt, means be a comrade in a problem and Found, there is a solution together.
Thanks to: William Michael of Vallarta Escapes.

38. The Home School Program

After being unfairly criticized by competitors, we lost 60% of our clients. Rather than losing our head and throwing in the towel, we remained true to our mission, fielded any negative communications with a positive response, ignored the "riff-raff" and put our hands to the grindstone! We rebuilt and in 2008, we were given special status in a California Appellate Court case, much to the chagrin of our competitors, and helped set the first favorable ruling in the State of California for our industry!
Thanks to: Terry Neven of Sunland.

39. THANK YOU!

Treat critics and criticism like your best friends! We WANT people to tell us what we may not want to hear, but what we may desperately need to know! Sure, strokes are nice, but where's the challenge to improve or to go farther?

Grow a thick skin and say, "Thank You for helping us serve better. Thank You for pointing out how we can do better. Thank You for taking the time and caring enough to help us be the best we can be! We need more customers like you!"

Talk about disarming? You bet!
Thanks to: Dr. Tom Taylor of Victory For Leaders.

40. Pretend it's Your Future Boss

Any time someone leaves a snide comment on my blog or sends me a rude email, I often pretend that I'm replying to my future boss. How would I handle the reply if I WAS writing to my boss? If I didn't want to lose my job, what would I say? This always affects how I reply and helps me to keep my cool! I may not agree with the person who said something rude, but I can certainly answer in a respectful way, offering my side without cursing, being immature or showing anger.

It works!
Thanks to: Shara Lawrence-Weiss of Mommy Perks.

41. Calm, Confident, & Classy!

Pleasing everyone or even trying is a shortcut to business disaster, so stay calm & confident about yourself & your product first, & then clear out all of the noise to find the real signal. Are people simply whining to get a better deal or discount or do they have genuine feedback? Not all feedback is worth acting on, so try to neutralize the environment with a simple sorry, listening ear, & plain clarification without going overboard with mountains of apologies & explanations.
Thanks to: Devesh Dwivedi of Breaking The 9 To 5 Jail.

42. Say It, Show It, Share It

The most natural responses for handling criticism are to argue, justify the issue or avoid it altogether.

Criticism, though hurtful, can be turned into a positive opportunity if you face it, own up to it and offer to fix it. As soon as possible, respond directly. Say "I'm sorry" and mean it. Show them that their opinion matters and share the solution with them.

Whether the criticism is right or not, someone's feelings are at the other end.
Thanks to: Angel Tuccy of Experience Pros.

43. Danbury

Since your Body is always moving and sending messages, it is wise to send the opposite of what is happening during criticism and negative comments. One of the greatest facial gestures is the raising of the eyebrows. Some people don't like to do that because it may cause wrinkles on the forehead. This, however, is the natural smile with the eyes, not the mouth. Fortunately, raising the eyebrows is a conscious movement and can also be controlled subconsciously.
Thanks to: Carolyn Finch of Electrific Solutions Inc.

44. Kamloops

Opinions - everybody has one.

The best way to handle online criticism is to realize first and foremost that email or Internet communications are limited - things aren't always what they seem. Realize that everyone has an opinion and they are entitled to it, but ask yourself what qualifies that person to make a criticism of you? If it matters a great deal to you, seek clarification by taking it off line, if possible. Most of all, don't let your ego get in the way.
Thanks to: Kellie Auld of Simply Communicating.

45. "Lean in" to Criticism

Do what therapists do: "lean in" and acknowledge criticism with as much gusto as possible.

Customer: Your stupid camera didn't work – at my daughter's graduation!
You: At your daughter's one and only graduation ceremony? That's awful! I would be furious about that!

Customer: This food is terrible!
You: Wow! Sounds like you had a miserable lunch!

Then, ask good questions, followed by constructive problem solving based on what you *can* do. P.S. Works at home too!
Thanks to: Rich Gallagher of Point of Contact Group.

46. What NOT to Do When Criticized

A lot of us get on the defensive when faced with criticism. That's what NOT to do. Often, our reaction turns into a confrontation -- even though the criticism might be legit. Instead, we need to train ourselves to count to 10 and then listen. Offer thanks and tell the person that you will look into the issue brought forth. It's after this that we can analyze whether or not the negative matter was constructive or not. Criticism more often brings a good and valuable point that improves our lot.
Thanks to: Diane M. Hoffmann of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications.

47. Criticism

There is constructive criticism and there is destructive criticism. You will get both in business. I take the constructive criticism to heart and work to improve those shortcomings; the destructive ones, I simply brush off.
Thanks to: Bola Ajumobi of Slimy Bookworm.

48. We Welcome Your Criticism

We instruct our clients to always send surveys to their patients asking them about their experience at the dental practice. This helps the dental practice create a unique experience for potential patients, as well as meet the expectations of current patients, especially the ones that take the survey. Criticism should be welcomed in order to improve one's business and to create a better experience for future and current clients.
Thanks to: Jon Baucom of Dental Practice Management.

49. 7 Secrets to Handle Criticism

Every entrepreneur and business owner has to go through a gauntlet of criticism and opinion before seeing success. Did you ever wonder how the pros take all the heat and not get burned? Simple - they ELEVATE! Professionals have mastered these 7 secrets of flipping any critique into an opportunity to build their own credibility and create additional curiosity, based around the acronym ELEVATE: Entertain, Listen, Echo, Verify, Accept, Thank and Explain.
Thanks to: Ken Stewart of ChangeForge, LLC.

50. Appreciation

The best response to criticism is appreciation and understanding. Let the customer know you understand them and know exactly how they feel. Congratulate them for being willing to speak their truth, as most don't feel worthy of getting what they really want. Tell them you appreciate their concerns and will do your best to remedy the situation. Follow through with what you say. When you are sincere and authentic, customers will feel your energy and will know you are someone they can trust.
Thanks to: Paul Reinig of Mastering True Love.

51. That's How Employees Learn

Companies want to hear negative comments and criticisms, or at least they should. That's how employees learn. Don't take the negativity personally. Apologize, validate and resolve the issues. Learn from the mistakes and grow your business.
Thanks to: Eden Rosen of Freelance Author/Speaker.

52. Bribes and Incentives Welcome

You might be tempted to leave a seductive voice-mail from a cooing female to "meet me in the alley" and then invite the Hell's Angels too, but that's probably not the best course to a resolution for the miserable, lying SOB who has been trashing your reputation unjustly somewhere online.
I must have done it a thousand times myself, not the "meet me in the alley" thing; I mean the real solution- apologize and tell the truth.
Both steps are necessary, regardless of where any blame lies. Do it!
Thanks to: Stafford Williamson.

53. Haters = Focus

In just the past few months, I've received significantly more negative feedback (positive too, in case you're keeping score). Each time, I set it aside for a day before revisiting. I realized that they didn't like the focus, tone and character I was bringing to the table. The more I embraced my target market, the less the critics liked it. While no one is perfect, it may be good to ask yourself, do I want to please this critic? Or does a hater just mean I have focus?
Thanks to: Nicole Fende of Small Business Finance Forum.

54. Remember Words of Wisdom

When people criticize my business, I remember that it's more about them than it is about me. What they say is based on what they believe and understand. At times like this, I think of a saying I heard a long time ago: "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Sometimes, people aren't ready, willing or able to hear the things that we have to say. Maybe we've shown up in their life at the wrong time. But the time may come when they are ready, and then the seed we planted will grow.
Thanks to: Dawn Frail of Eagle Vision Leadership Group.

55. Faster Than a Locomotive!

If you experience negative comments online - address them IMMEDIATELY! Many businesses wait, hoping that the comments will go away. They won't! The internet is forever and the faster you respond to poor customer service, a bad meal or the fact an employee smells, the faster your customer base will understand that you care about them and will work to fix the situation. Not responding is the same as a politician lying about a sex scandal! Step up, admit the problem and then it will vanish fast!
Thanks to: Mark Alyn of Mark Alyn Communications, Inc.

56. Redirect the Focus

Redirect the focus of the criticism you are receiving. Establish your own narrative and stay true to the message you are trying to deliver. Often, criticism may be related to superficial, style-related items that don't reflect the true core and nature of your products or business. Remind people of where you stand, what you believe in, and what you have to offer and then, let the chips fall where they may.
Thanks to: Paul Scheatzle of Bailey Rehabilitation.

57. Put Criticism into Perspective

Once you receive feedback, say thank you. Rather than react immediately, ask yourself, is this something I can use? If it is meant to hurt, consider the source, think about why he might be trying to 'get your goat' and say to yourself "not today." If you find negative thoughts creeping in, physically brush each shoulder off and say "be gone." Focus on the now, not should haves. If the criticism is warranted, focus on next time or from now on. You can't change the past; you can change the future.
Thanks to: Joan Craven of Craven Communications.

58. I'm to Blame for L.A. Burning?

We all have customers and hear from them on occasion. Corporate trainers, though, hear from those customers--in writing--dozens, if not hundreds of times a week. I've learned to sift through the comments and use the valid ones to improve my training programs. The absurd ones bounce right off the trainers-Teflon-skin I've developed. I completely ignored, for example, the one suggesting people like me, sympathetic to Rodney King, caused the L.A. riots after the police were acquitted.
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli of Center for Professional Development.

59. As Graciously as Possible

No one likes to hear criticism, be it justified or not. But what we must remember is to watch our words ever so carefully - especially online or any printed/permanent medium. Slow down. Count to 10. Reread what you wrote before hitting the send button. Think, how will this sound to the recipient? Could I have found less inflammatory words? In person, we have more leeway because of voice inflection and eye contact. The written word is flat, cold and permanent! It's best to err on the side of caution.
Thanks to: Heidi McCarthy of Toughest Customer.

60. Tough Clients Mean Money Too.

Acknowledge and explore. Never argue. Validating someone's perspective increases their ability to listen to you after they feel heard. Being heard doesn't mean agreeing. Dig deeper into their reasons for criticism. There is always some deeper hurt they're covering up with the negative comment. Criticisms and negativity are a form of anger. Anger is a defense system for vulnerability. Using empathy skills to reveal the vulnerability develops a positive relationship. Relationships are good business.
Thanks to: Wave Bannister of Being Human Inc.

61. The Pitch & Notes Offer Reason

I've got an acoustic Yamaha guitar next to the desk in my office. I'll relax, hum, whistle, and then strum a few chords. While I play, I'll philosophize & reason. I'll ask myself if there's any reason or merit for the criticism. I'll try to understand the critic's opinion before the situation mushrooms & I get in a huff.
Thanks to: Glen Naughty of Mighty Fleiss Radio.

62. Stop! Take a Breath

In business, it's always important to keep your cool. When receiving criticism, first stop and take a full breath before you say a word! Thank the person for their input and tell them "Interesting. I'll think that through." This will give you an opportunity to decide for yourself 1) Does this person have a point? 2) Is the criticism constructive? 3) Should you make changes based on this criticism? Breathe first, to think clearly.
Thanks to: Julie Melillo of Business Coaching in Manhattan.

63. Keep a Smile File

I keep a Smile File - a bunch of feel-good things others have said about me. They include: clicking "favorite" on positive comments on Twitter, putting testimonials and other happy customer emails into a file in my inbox, and keeping a manila folder of hand-written thank you notes I receive. Whenever I encounter criticism that stings, I simply open one of my Smile Files and soon, I'm feeling great again remembering why I do what I do and that there are plenty of people happy with my work!
Thanks to: Felicia Slattery of Felicia Slattery Communications.

64. Validate & Welcome!

People who criticize believe others don't listen. A three-step process gets my client heard, builds the relationship by re-framing criticism as loyalty, and improves business by identifying possible changes.

One, validate you’re listening: Repeat the criticism (exactly): "You think....." Next, express gratitude: He’s bothering to give feedback, instead of leaving. "I'm grateful." Use the criticism to explore service/product improvements. Inform the criticizer, building a collaboration.
Thanks to: Ilene Dillon of Emotional Pro.

65. Know Thyself

The one certain prophylaxis against negative criticism is the knowledge that you have done your homework. Unless you are certain that you know what you are talking about, you will feel like an imposter before you give your presentation and afterwards, if criticized. Once that is understood, any other advice as to how to make an effective presentation becomes trivial or superfluous.
Thanks to: Peter Spinogatti of Explaining Unhappiness.

66. Internet Morons?

It ultimately depends on the individual case, however, in most cases, I ignore it. As businesses grow online more and more, it is easy for others to comment on blogs, videos, etc. This accessibility leaves easy opportunities for "internet morons" to hide behind their computers and leave ignorant and/or unsubstantiated comments. If they are vulgar, I delete them, if they are idiotic, I respond with a sassy comeback, if they are substantiated, a good, healthy debate can develop
Thanks to: Vidette Vanderweide of Ditch Your Job Now.

67. Be Open to Criticism to Win!

Constructive criticism is like failure... you have to experience it in order to grow and succeed. It all depends on how you take it in and respond to it.

Be open to receive criticism, preferably given constructively, to improve your personal or professional skills, talents or self. But you have to see it constructively and be open to receive it in order to learn and grow. No matter how hard, do not take it personally.

Remember, 'it is business'.
Thanks to: Bernadette Boas of Ball of Fire, Inc.

68. Be Kind & Use Humor

Kindness and a sense of humor go a long way. Online reputation management is one of my favorite topics and I have received negative comments (both online and offline). Remember to be kind - don't stoop down to the other person's level when someone attacks you. It also helps to have a sense of humor. One person online made a comment on how pale I looked in my photo. I responded that I was getting my ghost costume ready for Halloween. A sense of humor works wonders!
Thanks to: Therese Pope of Zenful Communications.

69. Don’t Kill the Messenger

Don’t reject criticism that comes your way! Be open-minded. Don't think of your evaluator as the enemy. Otherwise, you may be giving up a source of knowledge and insight. In most criticism, there is something good enough to take to heart. As P. M. Forni discusses in "Choosing Civility" - it's criticism that makes us learn what we are unable or unwilling to learn by ourselves.
Thanks to: Marla Harr of Business Etiquette International.

70. Love Them Shuts Them Down

When customer blasts you, your company or product, the first reaction is to blast them back. Avoid this, as now you're at their level.

Instead, ask polite questions, provide succinct answers (no background detail or lengthy explanations; it simply confuses everyone & no one cares). Then, offer them something they cannot refuse. If they refuse this publicly, the egg is on their face and the public sees them in true color. Now drop it.

This works well for those trying to bluff you in the public.
Thanks to: Harlan Goerger of H. Goerger & Associates dba AskHG.

71. How We Thank & Reward Critics

Criticism is people wanting to help/be heard.

So, we recognize & reciprocate w/ Thank You Notes & REWARDS, such as a Free 99.00 E-book - "How to Knock out Stress" or a 4000 yr Old Exercise E-BOOK: "Energy Exercise Excites CATS" w/a 365 day 100% Moolah Back Guarantee.

Critics can become great customers when you treat them like VIP'S & Thank/Reward them.
Thanks to: Glenn Osborn of Big Red Nose Testing Club.

72. Bring on the Critics!

Have you ever given a speech? People will come up to you following a speech, saying "Good Job!" or "Great Speech!" and then, they walk away. What did you learn from them? Nothing! Don't get me wrong, I like kind comments as much as everyone else and they make me feel good... but, if you've got a Criticism for me, I am all ears! I want to learn from you! I want to hear what you did NOT like! YOU can really help me to do a better job next time! So, tell me what you really think!
Thanks to: Gary Christensen of Christensen's Delivery Service.

73. I Really Value Your Opinion...

Criticism is often difficult to accept, but I always try to listen objectively to what the person is saying. To do this, just step back, remove your ego from the equation, and examine the comment to see if they have a valid point. If they do, the criticism then becomes constructive feedback, which has a much more positive connotation to it. If it is something you can change, you can proceed to work on a solution; if it's something you can't change, just choose to smile and move on.
Thanks to: Glenda Standeven of Choosing to Smile Publications.

74. WORDS Were Like Broken Glass

As I was presenting, the room was full of note takers, watery eyes and people who felt good. After my presentation, I was approached by a “leader” who decided to provide “constructive criticism” right then & there. Her words did not encourage and inspire; her words cut like a double edged sword. How do you handle an uncomfortable position? I want you to remember that you are valuable & precious. Life is too short to worry about what people think about your gift, talent or skills.
Thanks to: Lucinda Cross of lucindacross.com.

75. From Criticism to Kudos!

Understanding what your clients need is the key to business success. So, next time a criticism comes in, use it as an opportunity to talk with the client about what need wasn't met, in what way and then, razzle-dazzle them with your ability to listen, change and exceed their expectations. Clients love a business and business owners that are accountable and responsive. And once you turn them around, you've got a built-in referral machine that will keep going long after the initial critique.
Thanks to: Cathleen O'Connor of The Balance Whisperer.

76. Criticism vs. Griping

There is a major difference between criticism and griping. Criticism is well thought out and articulated (even if it is lodged within a complaint). In cases like this, whether you agree with it or not, pay heed and at least take a look at it because it may help you. On the other hand, griping is typically unreasonable or even angry gibberish. That is what you filter out. Griping won't help you develop your business, so filter it out.
Thanks to: Mike Saxton of Science Fiction Author.

77. The Kernel of Truth

Criticisms often include a kernel of truth, clothed in negative language.
When receiving criticism, picture yourself objectively analyzing a nut for the kernel, while ignoring the shell. Is there something there that is accurate which you need to consider and friends would not tell you? If not, what is the person's motivation for saying the criticism - power, an effort to make herself feel better at a tough time in her life, etc? Can you ignore the negativity and respond only to the kernel?
Thanks to: Katie Schwartz of Business Speech Improvement.

78. What They Really Need is Help!

Criticism/negative comments are a customer cry for help. Engage in prompt communication with them. Show empathy for the situation as they see it. What's the basis for their frustration, disillusionment, or discontent? Respond with a solution! A real solution, not just words that you think the customer wants to hear. Many times, an apology and a sincere desire to ease the stress of the problem go a long way to turning a customer frown to a smile.
Thanks to: Dale Little of Business Strategist, Dale Little.

79. Keep Your Powder Dry

The best way to handle criticism after the fact is to ignore it. You will always be playing catch-up. The real secret is if you know that negative publicity is coming, get out in front of it. Get your story out first. Make them react to your story. Often, critics go overboard. They go too far. Let them. Keep your powder dry. If something needs to be changed or modified in some way, do it. Then, announce what you have done without mentioning the criticism.
Thanks to: Mitch Carnell of SPWC.

80. Hold 'Em or Fold 'Em?

Handling negative comments as a card game? Yes! In a card game, you have to know when to show your cards, play them close or a combination of both.
Step 1 - Contact the customer directly (examine hand)
Step 2 - Listen and offer a solution (show your cards)
Step 3 - If solution accepted, ask customer to delete or upgrade comments
Step 4 - If solution rejected, respond with an explanation in the same manner as original comments
Step 5 - Address breakdown in company and deal a new hand!
Thanks to: Stephanie C. Williams of Crowned One Worldwide Inc.

81. It's All About Them

Handling criticism or negative comments isn't always easy. The best way I've found to handle it is to remember that it's not usually about me, it's about them.
For example, when someone asks you, "Are you REALLY going to do that?", it's coming from their uncomfortableness in doing it. That doesn't mean that you need to 'buy into' their opinion that it should be uncomfortable. You can choose.
It's about where they are in their own personal awareness of who they are, and where they are going.
Thanks to: Tracey Fieber of Tracey Fieber Business Solutions.

82. Take it in Stride

Criticism can be positive or negative and often with the latter, due to how we are wired as human beings, is to focus on the negative first. If you receive negative comments or criticism, the best approach is to remain calm, take a deep breath to relax, consider the source and then respond by thanking them for their comment. Some people are well meaning and may have your best interest at heart. Try and find some element in the criticism that you might be able to use. Otherwise, just let it go and move on.
Thanks to: Myles Miller of LeadUP.

83. Ignore the Judgment

When someone shares a criticism in a negative way, acknowledge them and let it go. Often, they have made the negative comment out of habit, lack of training, jealousy and other fear-based emotions. People crave acknowledgment! Then, be sure you don't simply judge them back-- look to see if there is a nugget of truth in their comment. Remember the negative emotions you felt hearing their criticism to keep your own critical tongue from wagging to someone else another time.
Thanks to: Monica Strobel of The Compliment Quotient.

84. How to Deal with "That Guy"

Usually, I respond with Joy and Thank them genuinely for their concern in the matter. Then, I follow up with questions on how they are an expert in this field (especially if not someone well known) and for their consulting website, so I can learn more about their approach.
This will normally cause them to discredit themselves without you becoming the A#$ that they are showing themselves to be. After follow-up, move on; don't let them take control of your conversation. This works for me 100%.
Thanks to: Jeff Halligan of JHalligan Designs.

85. Thanks for the Criticism!

Thank them for their useful input! With practice, this will defuse your immediate emotional response and give you time to look to see what you are really reacting too. You will only have a strong response to criticism if it’s something that triggers you. For example, if you need to be right or your greatest fear or weakness has been triggered, you may react. The useful information is less about what they say and more about what you are missing or ignoring by reacting in this way.
Thanks to: Sarah Kent of Creating Work That Fits.

86. Take it for What it's Worth

Before you consider handling criticism, look at the source & determine why it's coming & who it's from. If it's from a client or vendor & you made an honest mistake, a simple apology & making it right is usually enough. If the criticism is coming for other reasons - like somebody is jealous, doesn't understand what you're trying to accomplish or is trying to hold you back in some way, then the best thing is to consider the source & ignore it. This way, you'll be the ultimate winner.
Thanks to: Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems.

87. Stay Positive About Negativity

Social media lets businesses and customers communicate. But customers also talk...and complain... to each other. Such negative feedback can feel highly personal, especially for small business owners. The key? Remain positive. Positivity and willingness build brand loyalty. Put personal barbs aside. Don't lay blame or justify. Customers understand mistakes will be made. A positive approach to negativity diffuses a tough situation, regaining the customer and, perhaps, many new fans.
Thanks to: Victoria Ipri of Modello Media, Inc.

88. Flip the Coin of Negativity

Take out a coin. Let's say 'heads' is negative criticism. Now, turn the coin around. What is on the other side of criticism? No, don't read on - stop and reflect a little: What IS on the other side of this coin?

You might think something like 'peace, quietness, or relaxation'. Think again: Negative criticism affects you; it can rattle your nervous system. We look for the same intensity on the other side of the same coin: Encouragement, passion, expression, and boost. So, always have a coin handy.
Thanks to: Otto Siegel of Genius Coaching.

89. Smile While Being Criticized

Criticism is simply the desperate passionate drive of a dedicated individual, who truly wants to see you succeed. Their only challenge is the tone they use while communicating their opinions. You, on the other hand, can either take it as a compliment or waste energy getting mad and worked up over the issue. Remember, you are completely incapable of controlling others opinions, but you do have a choice on how to respond to them. Lower your guard and award the greatest natural gift, a big smile.
Thanks to: Lee Kariuki of Lee Kariuki.

90. Amateur Psychology Hour!

I'm really interested in looking at things from other peoples' perspectives and criticism is a great opportunity to do that.

I'm not a psychologist, but I love to look at why people think the way they do and what that means to them. I try to see what they're reacting to, how they got there, and how I can take that into account next time to be a better business owner.

And, sure, sometimes I get truly crazy-pants criticisms - and those make for really entertaining stories!
Thanks to: Erin Ferree of BrandStyle Design.

91. Hold the Presses!

Face it. Major media aren't going to go chasing you down when everybody loves you. Accused of shady dealings? Products that turned out unsafe? That's when you roll out those press releases. Your name recognition will soar and your competition will go nuts trying to figure out how you did it.
Thanks to: Sondra Lowell of FilmSleepy.

92. Acknowledge and Laugh!

Laugh! Of course, this is best done in privacy; no need to provoke further criticism. Laughing takes your edge off before you say “Thank you for your feedback.” Especially online, you want to acknowledge and accept the criticism in a positive way, and then add a lighthearted response that provides a solution to the problem or that addresses how you will look into the matter as appropriate. For example, “We are fortunate to have amazing customers who will always let us know when we mess up!”
Thanks to: Tina Nies of Be Happier Today.

93. Criticizing a Sock Puppet

We each have our own world view, moods, and thoughts, all of which influence what we see and how we interpret what we see. People do not report on reality; they decide in their mind what reality is and report on their thinking. So when someone criticizes you, what they are really criticizing is a sock puppet version of you that they see in their mind. That’s all they ever experience. They are NEVER criticizing you. How can you be bothered by someone who is criticizing a sock puppet?
Thanks to: Tim Chaney of Author & Success Coach, Tim Chaney.

94. An Open Mind Gathers Awareness

Listen open-mindedly to what the other is saying, (they’re offering their perception - valid to them). Without being defensive, thank them for sharing something you weren't aware of. Tell them you'll think about and consider what they said. Ex: a co worker says you're arrogant and self absorbed. You don't agree. Refrain from lashing back. Instead, reply "I wasn't aware you felt that way. Thank you for pointing it out. I'll give it some thought. If I agree, I'll make some changes."
Thanks to: Janet Pfeiffer of PfeifferPowerSeminars.com.

95. Make Everything an Opportunity

Criticism is an opportunity for self-growth, and healing what’s unprocessed in you, so you can respond consciously rather than from emotional reactivity. In the face of a negative comment, ask yourself, “Does the criticism have any validity?” If you realize it’s really more about them than you, take a moment to notice what their words have triggered in you. “Does this merit a response?” If you do respond, approaching it from a larger perspective gives them wiggle room to back out gracefully.
Thanks to: Dr. Jennifer Howard of www.drjenniferhoward.com.

Do you know another tip that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
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  • Review Complaint List Yearly.
    After being in my field for 25 years, I know the complaints I have been given cause I written them down in my personal journel. Keep that list fresh and share it with your team on a quarterly and yearly basis. We all have the possiability to either dwell in our character defects or excell in our talents, but it is conscious decision to which to step into either path. Our customer and clients do not forget both, so neither should we. With the change of staff or clients, our histrry is always behind us as a road map for the future.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I’ve shared this too to my friends. Great business tips. We always need some reminders on how to manage our businesses (like your post here).

    Christine from Business Wealth League ( http://www.businesswealthleague.com )

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  • Absolutely awesome list! Thanks so much for the time you spent developing this. It’s priceless!

  • So we need to be careful on our small business. Social media can make or break our business online reputation. The power of word of mouth in social media is huge. 

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  • So we need be careful. Social media can make or break your business online reputation. Social media users today can be viewed as independent critics and reviewers – They can say whatever they want and influence whoever they meet about a certain brand.

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